MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Rothbard and War – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on August 26, 2019

First and foremost, war deforms us morally.

War corrupts the culture

War distorts reality itself. 

Be decent. Be human. Do not be deceived by the Joe Bidens, the John McCains, the John Boltons, Hillary Clintons and the whole gang of neocons.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2019/08/lew-rockwell/rothbard-on-war/

By

This talk was delivered at the Ron Paul Institute’s Conference on Breaking Washington’s Addiction to War.

Murray Rothbard was the creator of the modern libertarian movement and a close friend of both Ron Paul and me. His legacy was a great one, and at the Mises Institute I try every day to live up to his hopes for us.

One issue was the most important to him, of all the many issues that concerned him. This was the issue of war and peace. Because of his support for a peaceful, noninterventionist foreign policy for America, the CIA agent William F. Buckley blacklisted him from National Review and tried, fortunately without success, to silence his voice.

During the 1950’s, Murray worked for the Volker Fund, and in a letter to Ken Templeton in 1959, he complained about the situation:  “I can think of no other magazine which might publish this, though I might fix it up a bit and try one of the leftist-pacifist publications. The thing is that I am getting more and more convinced that the war-peace question is the key to the whole libertarian business, and that we will never get anywhere in this great intellectual counterrevolution (or revolution) unless we can end this . . . cold war-a war for which I believe our tough policy is largely responsible.”

Buckley’s position was that it would be necessary to erect a “totalitarian bureaucracy” within our shores in order to battle communism abroad. The implication was that once the communist menace subsided, this extraordinary effort, domestic and foreign, could likewise diminish.

Since government programs do not have a habit of diminishing but instead seek new justifications when the old ones no longer exist, few of us were surprised when the warfare state, and its right-wing apologists, hummed right along after its initial rationale vanished from history.

As it turns out, by the way, the Soviet threat was grossly exaggerated, as such threats always are. The wickedness of the Soviet regime was never in doubt, but its capabilities and intentions were consistently distorted and overblown.

Despite the dubious foundations on which the hysterical claims behind the alleged “Soviet threat” rested, its existence ossified into one of the unchallengeable orthodoxies of National Review and of the broader conservative movement then being born. When Murray pointed out the silliness of the whole thing, not to mention the counterproductive nature of American military intervention abroad, he quickly became an un-person at National Review, which had published him in its early years.

Well before there was an official “conservative movement,” with its magazines, its crusty orthodoxies, its ineffectual think-tanks (complete with sinecures for ex-politicians) and its craving for respectability, there was a loose, less formal association of writers and intellectuals who opposed Franklin Roosevelt (in both his domestic and foreign policies), a group Murray dubbed the “Old Right.”

There was no party line among these intrepid thinkers because there was nobody to impose one.

Even into the 1950s and the advance of the Cold War, voices of restraint amidst the remnants of the Old Right could still be found. In a 1966 article, Murray points to the right-wing group For America, a political action group whose foreign-policy platform demanded “no conscription” as well as the principle, “Enter no foreign wars unless the safety of the United States is directly threatened.”

Murray likewise pointed to the Jeffersonian novelist Louis Bromfield, who wrote in 1954 that military intervention against the Soviet Union was counterproductive:

One of the great failures of our foreign policy throughout the world arises from the fact that we have permitted ourselves to be identified everywhere with the old, doomed, and rotting colonial-imperialist small European nations which once imposed upon so much of the world the pattern of exploitation and economic and political domination…. None of these rebellious, awakening peoples will…trust us or cooperate in any way so long as we remain identified with the economic colonial system of Europe, which represents, even in its capitalistic pattern, the last remnants of feudalism…. We leave these awakening peoples with no choice but to turn to Russian and communist comfort and promise of Utopia.

Murray likewise made note of a 1953 article by George Morgenstern, editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune, in Human Events (“now become a hack organ for the ‘Conservative Movement,’” Murray lamented in 1966) that deplored the imperialist tradition in American history. Morgenstern ridiculed those who “swoon on very sight of the phrase ‘world leadership,’” and wrote:

An all-pervasive propaganda has established a myth of inevitability in American action: all wars were necessary, all wars were good. The burden of proof rests with those who contend that America is better off, that American security has been enhanced, and that prospects of world peace have been improved by American intervention in four wars in half a century. Intervention began with deceit by McKinley; it ends with deceit by Roosevelt and Truman.

Perhaps we would have a rational foreign policy…if Americans could be brought to realize that the first necessity is the renunciation of the lie as an instrument of foreign policy.

With the advent of National Review, these increasingly isolated voices would be silenced and marginalized. Even the heroic John T. Flynn, whose anti-FDR biography The Roosevelt Myth had reached number two on the New York Times bestseller list, was turned away from National Review when he tried to warn of the dangers of a policy of military interventionism.

Why did Murray oppose war? Here are a few points basic to his thought:…

You will have to see for yourself here…

See through the propaganda. Stop empowering and enriching the state by cheering its wars. Set aside the television talking points. Look at the world anew, without the prejudices of the past, and without favoring your own government’s version of things.

Be decent. Be human. Do not be deceived by the Joe Bidens, the John McCains, the John Boltons, Hillary Clintons and the whole gang of necons. Reject the biggest government program of them all.

Peace builds. War destroys.

Let’s return for a moment to Murray. When he opposed the Vietnam War, he alienated not only National Review, the major right-wing magazine and the most important conservative voice in the country, as well as virtually everyone on the right. He had to write for a small number of newsletter subscribers. By the late 1960s, he told Walter Block there were probably only 25 libertarians in the entire world.

Things are much easier for us today, thanks in large part to Murray’s commitment and Ron Paul’s extraordinary example. There are now millions of people who are resolutely antiwar, and who don’t care which political party the president launching any particular war happens to belong to.

On top of that, it’s encouraging to know that younger people are much less convinced of the need for an interventionist foreign policy. The younger the audience, the less the warmongers’ fact-free exhortations fall on receptive ears.

This in my view is Murray Rothbard’s greatest legacy. It’s up to all of us to help carry it forward.

Be  seeing you

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